Today is an important day on the calendar. It is a day when intentional preparation begins for an important day that is coming soon. The big day that is coming is so important that it takes weeks of preparation to be ready. Without proper preparation, the big day will fall flat, or even be a disaster. Today, that preparation begins when pitchers and catchers report to spring training for Major League Baseball! In baseball, the pitchers need the most preparation to be ready for the season, so they are the first players to report to spring training, and the catchers are needed so the pitchers can do their thing. The rest of the roster will soon follow, and these players will spend the next six weeks preparing for Major League Baseball’s opening day on April 1.
For some Christians, today is also a day that intentional preparation begins. It is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is the 40 days before Easter, except for Sundays. Why are Sundays excluded? Our worship on Sundays of the resurrected Christ is too powerful and joyous for it to be a solemn day! So, every Sunday is a day off from Lent for those who observe it.
Ok…hold up! Isn’t Lent only for Catholics? Well…yes and no. Lent is a Christian practice that far precedes the split of Catholic and Protestant churches in 1517. Irenaus of Lyons (130-200) mentioned a season of preparation before Easter in his writings, and a 40-day period was discussed as far back at the Council of Nicea (325). It is true that Catholics are the most prominent Lenten observers in our culture today, but there are many streams of the Christian faith that continue this tradition. They look to the example of Jesus, who spent 40 days in the desert, fasting and praying, to prepare for his ministry on Earth. (see Matthew 4:1-11)
For most Christians, the idea of Lent remains consistent. It is a period of self-examination and repentance through fasting or self-denial in some way. It is intentional preparation with the goal of refocusing our spiritual lives around Christ. During this solemn time, we seek to be reminded of the gravity of His death on Good Friday and the miracle of His resurrection on Easter Sunday. When we have prepared our hearts and our souls for God to work, He can move much more freely in our midst!
My friends, how are you preparing your heart for Easter? Here at Island Christian, we don’t give out ashes today or officially observe Lent, but we do need to prepare our hearts. What intentional preparation are you planning in order to be ready to receive what God has for you? I’m not recommending that you skip meat on Fridays or give up chocolate and coffee (this is certainly heresy!) If we make any tradition into a law we run the very real risk of creating an idol that impedes true worship, but we should take the idea seriously of preparing our hearts for God to move.
So, take a minute to reflect today. How is the Holy Spirit prompting you to prepare for Easter? Where is your spiritual life weak and in need of growth? Are you…
Taking time daily to read the Bible and reflect on His truth?
- Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
- John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
- I Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
If you take time to pray through these three areas, I believe God will reveal to you opportunities to grow and deepen your relationship with Him. If you do that, you can have the most spiritually significant Easter of your life. My prayer for you is that in some way you will begin a season of intentional preparation that looks forward to Easter. God is ready to do some amazing things in our church, so we should do our part to be ready!